Ephesians 4:29 first urges us: “Let a rotten saying not proceed out of your mouth.” That may not be easy. One reason is that profanity is so common in the world around us. Many Christian youths hear cursing daily, for schoolmates may think that it adds emphasis or makes them appear tougher. We may not fully be able to avoid hearing foul words, but we can and should make a conscious effort not to absorb these. They have no place in our minds or mouths.
Underlying Paul’s warning is a Greek word that relates to spoiled fish or decayed fruit. Visualize this: You observe a man get impatient and then outright furious. Finally he explodes, and you see a putrefied fish come out of his mouth. You then see stinking, decayed fruit tumble out, splashing all nearby. Who is he? How terrible if he were any of us! Yet, such an image could fit if we ‘let rotten sayings proceed out of our mouth.’
Another application of Ephesians 4:29 is for us to avoid being constantly critical. Granted, all of us have opinions and tastes about things we do not like or accept, but have you been around someone who seems to have a negative comment (or many comments) about every person, place, or thing mentioned? (Compare Romans 12:9; Hebrews 1:9.) His speech tears down, depresses, or destroys. (Psalm 10:7; 64:2-4; Proverbs 16:27; James 4:11, 12) He may not realize how much he resembles the critical ones Malachi described. (Malachi 3:13-15) How shocked he might be if a bystander told him that a putrefied fish or decaying fruit was slipping out of his mouth!
While it is easy to recognize when someone else constantly makes negative or critical comments, ask yourself, ‘Do I tend to be like that? Really, do I?’ It would be wise to reflect occasionally on the spirit of our words. Are they primarily negative, critical? Do we sound like Job’s three false comforters? (Job 2:11; 13:4, 5; 16:2; 19:2) Why not find a positive aspect to mention? If a conversation is mainly critical, why not steer it into upbuilding matters?
Malachi presented this contrast: “Those in fear of Jehovah spoke with one another, each one with his companion, and Jehovah kept paying attention and listening. And a book of remembrance began to be written up before him for those in fear of Jehovah and for those thinking upon his name.” (Malachi 3:16) Did you notice how God responded to upbuilding speech? What was the likely effect of such conversation on associates? We can personally learn a lesson regarding our daily speech. How much finer for us and others if our typical conversation reflects our ‘sacrifice of praise to God.’—Hebrews 13:15.